On Monday the ECB announced that Joe Root would be the new England Test captain following Alastair Cook’s decision to step down. How will he fare in his new role?
Joe Root, England’s star batsman across the formats was, on Monday, announced as Alastair Cook’s replacement as Test captain. It came as little surprise when the news broke. Whilst there were other candidates for the role, namely Ben Stokes (now vice-captain) and Stuart Broad, both of which were interviewed for the position, it has long been assumed that when Cook finally decided enough was enough, that Root would be the man to replace him.
There is already great expectation surrounding his appointment as captain, as is always the way with Root. A man who, since his debut at 21, has continually defied records to become one of the best batsmen in the world and is considered one of those players that comes around once a generation.
But how will he fare as captain?
For many players, the appointment of captaincy has been their undoing, the pressure of leadership affecting their own game. You need a strong mentality to be able to face both the challenge of leading your side and being able to step up and perform when it comes to your own game. Fans and players alike, however, will hope that he follows in the footsteps of his modern Test counterparts and rivals: the likes of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson, for whom the captaincy has only enhanced their own games.
Though only time can tell, it is hard to imagine that Root will be any different. A player who already boasts a test average of 52.80, one would assume, would be undeterred by the responsibilities and pressures that a captain will inevitably face. A player whom, in his 53 matches, has amassed over 4,500 runs and doesn’t look to be slowing down.
The only thing that, it could be argued, holds Root back is his lack of experience when it comes to captaincy. Having been a regular in the England side from the age of 21 onwards, there has obviously been little chance for Root to be tested in a captaincy role. His experience is limited to a stint with the England Lions in 2013, three county championship games for Yorkshire in 2014 and a couple of warm up games in Bangladesh before Cook joined up with the side.
Such is the nature of the modern game that more often than not players get less opportunities to hone their captaincy skills before the role is thrust upon them. Once you are a consistent member of the international squad there is little time to play for your county and to be appointed as captain. It would, in most cases, be pointless and potentially detrimental.
Though Root’s captaincy experience is limited, it is important to note his fulfilment of the role of vice-captain in 2015 by the newly appointed Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss. Having served, even as vice-captain, for a year and a half has given Root that extra responsibility to focus on the game as a whole and is a position he has very much tried to craft as his own.
As James Anderson stated in an interview with the BBC, “In the brief period Alastair Cook’s been off the field – for bathroom breaks – Root’s been in there making changes. He’s been good.” Root has not, nor will he ever be, afraid to think outside the box and to follow his own instinct.
Whilst there is no telling for sure how Joe Root will take to the captaincy, if it is anything like his international career across the formats then it will be exceedingly special. Root will bring to the role a fresh mentality and a new approach to the game that is sometimes needed within a team to boost their performance, something which has been evident for England in the shorter format of the game. Similarly, Root’s role within that limited overs side over the past couple of years will, perhaps, leave him in good stead in terms of his own captaincy and perhaps influence the Test side into taking a new approach to Test cricket.
For too long, in Test cricket in particular, natural talent has been stifled in favour of a steady “dig in” mentality, however Root’s experience of flexibility within both batting and the approach to the game, may lead him to take England down a different Test path, to follow the example of other nations and to take English Test cricket into the next era as a successful and flexible side.
Whilst only time will tell as to whether Root will become one of England’s great Test captains, one thing that is for certain is that Root will continue to wow audiences. And hopefully, so will England.